GP complaints high but few merit GMC investigation

GPs are more likely to be complained about than other types of doctor but are the least likely to be investigated by the GMC, a report has revealed.

GMC chairman Professor Sir Peter Rubin: standards high
GMC chairman Professor Sir Peter Rubin: standards high

The state of medical education and practice in the UK report: 2013 published by the GMC on Wednesday revealed that GPs have a 17% chance of being complained about, compared with 11% for specialist doctors and 4% for other doctors, according to figures from 2007 to 2012.

But of the three groups GPs have the lowest chance of being investigated by the regulator. The GMC report attributed the high rate of complaints about GPs to the fact that the profession has far more interaction with patients than other doctors.

GPs have a 34% chance of being investigated by the GMC, compared with 39% for specialists and 66% for other doctors, the report said.

But GPs have a 22% chance of receiving a sanction or warning, compared to 19% for specialists and 31% for other doctors.

The report said: ‘GPs were more likely to have a complaint made against them than other doctors, but a fairly low proportion led to a sanction or warning. This is probably because GPs have far more interactions with patients than doctors in hospital settings do, but they might need more support from the GMC, their royal college and their employer to make sure they are meeting their patients’ expectations.

‘Of the complaints we receive about GPs that have an assigned allegation, 29% were linked to their communication with patients. GPs may therefore need more support, guidance or resources to ensure that their engagement with patients is appropriate.’

GPs’ place of primary medical qualification was associated with the probability of receiving a complaint, the report said.

‘Of those on the GP register, 25% of international medical graduates received a complaint compared with only 15% of UK graduates and 17% of European Economic Area graduates,’ it said.

‘In primary care, the proportion of international medical graduates is close to the national average of one in five GPs in most regions. But, in London and the West Midlands, one in four GPs is an international medical graduate, compared with only one in 21 in the south west.’

A total of 22% of male GPs faced at least one complaint between 2007 and 2012, compared with 11% for female GPs.

GMC chairman Professor Sir Peter Rubin said: 'Overall the standard of care that patients receive in the UK is good and doctors continue to deserve the trust and respect of the public.'

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